My Car Quest

February 22, 2018

Missing – A Million Dollar Ford GT40

It’s out there somewhere…if only someone would talk…

by Wallace Wyss –

When we imagine Ford GT40s in our mind’s eye, we see a coupe. Oh, yes, they did build roadsters but they weren’t any faster than the coupes and you had to imagine if it rained during the 24 Heures du Mans it would be a tad uncomfortable to be soaked while toodling along at 200 mph.

The most common number is that there were four roadsters built out of GT40 chassis, and at least two went to Shelby American for race testing; one later ended up at customizer Dean Jeffries shop where it sat for decades.

Ford GT40 X1 at Sebring

But that leaves out the fifth one, it turns out a significant one.

Back when I was writing various books on Shelby, whenever I met an ex-Shelby employee I’d always ask if they know what happened to the Ford X-1 sports racer, which was not just an open-cockpit GT40 but ran a big block 427. There’s pictures of it at Riverside Raceway where it did terrible against the first Can Am type cars.

Ford GT40 X1 at Sebring

Ford used it for testing the long nose GT40 configuration and for testing the ZF transaxles from Germany, desperately needed because the Italian Colotti gearboxes performed so badly in 1964.

Now what makes the X1 so unusual is that it had a second life so to speak, a very short second life, actually a one race second life but it won, dammit, it won.

It was rebodied with a shorter nose for Sebring in ’66, painted red (maybe to irk Ferrari) and won the 12 hour race.

Ford GT40 X1 at Riverside

So afterwards, you think, hey, let’s enshrine it in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, or hell, send it to the Smithsonian.

But no, Ford didn’t want to pay the customs duty. Every GT40 was built in England and they had to pay duties to permanently import it. (No one has told me if you got the duties back if you re-exported it to Blighty…).

So a Shelby employee told me he was there when they dig a big hole, somewhere not too far from Shelby’s shop at Los Angeles International Airport, and shoved it in.

Ford GT40 X1 at Sebring

He managed to cobb a couple souvenirs as evidence of his presence at the event, I think one being a knock off. So evidentially they didn’t strip the car first.

Unfortunately that employee has since passed on and when I met him anyway, he was suspicious enough of reporters to the point where he wouldn’t tell me what city to look in (as if the Secret still had to be kept 50 years later….). I figure it’s a landfill near Playa del Rey, near where Shelby had a private office, maybe buried in what, ten feet of sand? There must be instruments in 2018 that can see a car buried underground but it would help to know the intersection nearby.

Ford GT40 X1 in Can Am style racing

And so it is. An unsolved mystery. Were there other employees there at the interment of the car? What building is over the resting spot now? Or is it under a lawn and all it would take is a skip loader or a pail and shovel?

Would it be worth about 4-5 million dollars at a premium auction? If you leave the sand on it, would it be the ultimate in patina?

According to the website GT40s.net , the first 12 “prototype” vehicles carried serial numbers GT-101 through GT-112. They give these race results for GT/110:

09/65 : Mosport Park, 15, Amon, DNF –
10/65 : Riverside, 71, Amon, 5th –
12/65 : Nassau, 4, Amon/Scott, DNF – Nassau, Amon, DNF –
03/66 : Sebring, 1, Miles/Ruby, 1st

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the co-author of Ford GT40 and the New Ford GT. Copies are available as a package deal with a print of a Wyss GT40 painting. Interested parties can write Photojournalistpro2@gmail.com.

 
 

 

 

Ford GT40 Mk. II

Summary
Missing - A Million Dollar Ford GT40
Article Name
Missing - A Million Dollar Ford GT40
Description
A Shelby employee told me he was there when they dig a big hole, somewhere not too far from Shelby’s shop at Los Angeles International Airport, and shoved this Ford GT40 race car in.
Author

Comments

  1. that car went back to uk
    a local engineering shop owner had it for years..he ran a daytona and long tail gt40-70 thing on the road too..bloody great tail on it..i remember it being full of engineering swarf in the footwell

    not sure where they went…got a clue…there is a couple of barns local that some say are bricked up from inside..i only managed to look once..and full of cars..looks like a normal old farm building from outside.

    only him and the missus and they lived a frugal life..small house big barns..and a good engineering shop.

    somethings are worth more than money.

    digging a hole…next you will be telling me 9-11 had a plane in it..

  2. If going at 200 in the rain on every open car the rain doesn’t soak you as the rain just flies over the windscreen.
    Basic physics…

  3. wallace wyss says:

    It’s when you stop for a minute you get soaked. Ask me. I had an open top Ferrari 308GTS. Took a gal out in the rain roof lid off. Great while moving. Soaking while stopped at a light.

  4. Gaëtan Van der Kindere says:

    Great story ! Love it !

    Try and find another employee or customs agent.

    All the best,

    Gaëtan Van der Kindere

  5. John in Fargo says:

    I don’t understand how burying it in the USA obviated the British customs duty. Seems that proof of re-export would’ve been required.

  6. wallace wyss says:

    If you can demonstrate to customs that yes, here are pictures of the car being destroyed, they can’t charge you a customs duty. On the other hand let’s say me or my minions find it, disinter it, wipe off the patina (don’t have to worry bout rusty chassis, it’s aluminum tubbed) put a little air in the tires, switch engines and hoses, clean out the gas tanks, start it up and drive her around you can bet they would be there to collect the duty. This sounds impossible to resurrect a “destroyed” car but there was a lightweight e-type smashed at Le Mans only to have someone approach a racing team decades later and offer them the same car, which is now restored. So never believe it’s destroyed until you see it crushed, burned or buried.

    • Wallace your version of the story differs in important ways from several authoritative published accounts. The bare tub was cut up before it was buried. The tub was originally all thin sheet steel like any other GT40, but with some lightly stressed parts substituted by aluminum. Thus, after 60+ years of burial there would be nothing left but a few aluminum pieces. So even if you could dig it up from the apartment complex under which it rests, it would be worth essentially nothing

  7. Mike Clarke says:

    All you need for a whole new car is the VIN number.

    • wallace wyss says:

      Mike: I heard the story directly from an ex-Shelby race car crew member Steele Therkelson It was he who removed a few souvenir parts. He did not say if it was cut up. But in Hemmings Motor News, which some people accept as a responsible source, in a story by Kurt Ernst published Dec. 8th, 2016 it says “Of the five GT40 roadsters built, four used steel frames, but Big Ed (an unkind reference to Ford’s other folly, the Edsel) received an aluminum frame. Unlike its brethren, Big Ed, also known as chassis GT/110, wasn’t initially intended for endurance racing glory; instead, it was to be campaigned by McLaren in Group 7, a series that would later give rise to the wildly popular Can-Am series.

      After the aluminum chassis was constructed by Abbey Panels in England, chassis GT/110 was shipped to McLaren for the addition of a body (featuring a long nose with canards and a tall rear spoiler) and a 427-cu.in. V-8. As The World Registry of Cobras & GT40s, Fourth Edition explains, the bare chassis was diverted to Lola Cars for close inspection, oddly fitting as the original GT40 was itself a variation of the Lola Mk. 6.”

      Ernst also says they cut the car up (as you say)but he adds that Shelby’s crew had to tack weld it back together when Customs was not satisfied they were burying an actual car, so my original position is correct.

      They dig up WWII planes all the time that were buried in muck for more than 60 years so I’m not buying a few scattered pieces is all that’s left story. You have to have something to show the Feds other than a few small lumps of metal. They like to see something that resembles a car chassis. In my four Incredible Barn Finds books there is more than one chapter about cars that were destroyed or thrown away that miraculously “come back”, another one being the D-type jag that an Italian coachbuilder bought after it was wrecked at LeMans and rebodied as a show car. It was finally bought and rebodied and is now a multi million dollar show car with a racing history. So I’m just saying there are people , who for various reasons, will throw you off the trail by saying “Oh, don’t bother to look for that, it was destroyed/junked, melted down.” I have found too many stories of rescued cars to accept those stories (and don’t forget the guy who stole the Mustang concept car and walled it up in a storage garage hoping no one would miss it…) Hope springs eternal!

      • Wallace —

        Obviously you have not read the book “Bruce McLaren: Racing Car Constructor” in which the construction process for the car is documented. I have personally confirmed this in writing directly with the McLaren employee who did that work and he confirms that a few steel panels were changed to aluminum on a normal Mk II STEEL chassis that Abbey Panels had already built.

        It is a widely held misconception that the tub was all aluminum because of erroneous reports like the on in the registry. And now you are perpetuating it because you have not referred to all the available sources.

        WWII planes were not made primarily of thin mild steel sheet. If they were ther would be nothing to reconstruct.

        The car was tack welded back together in secret because it was realized too late that customs wanted to witness it being cut up. After the secret tack welding it was cut up AGAIN in front of the customs agent and buried. This is also well documented in other books on the subject.

        What is not so well documented is that the reason the car was stripped after the 66 Sebring race is because the rough surface of the sebring track had pretty nuch ruined the tube, inducing vpcracks in the aluminum and loosening the riveted joints where aluminum was riveted to steel.

        Hemmings is a classified ad magazine, not an authority on GT40 history.

        I understand from readingyour version of events since 2014 how much you enjoy promoting the idea that P110 is “out there” but like a lot of historic rececars it was deemed worthless at the time and destroyed. So let’s give up on this fantasy. Those of us who know GT40 history are tired of having to repeatedly set the record straight.

  8. wallace wyss says:

    Thank you for pointing that book out. I find it curious you use the phrase “tube frame” when the car in question does not have a tube frame.However, you are indeed right to bring up that it was shaking apart. Yet another Shelby mechanic told me it was dangerous to drive and they didn’t want to re-rivet it. Now that you mention McLaren, I met him and interviewed him and am curious to know if I am talking to someone who was in diapers back in 1965 when I was a staff member of Motor Trend, on assignment to visit Shelby American and ,another time, go to Riverside and interview Bruce McLaren. I also lived in Detroit and was a regular visitor to Ford Archives where I was invited to help myself to GT40 pictures by Ford PR man Paul Preuss.

    Speaking to the larger issue of authenticating old race cars when the last man dies who worked on GT40s (including Abbey Panels employees, fAV employees and others in England , New Zealand etc.) it will be difficult for auction companies to know if they have the real thing to sell as happened with a 917 that was put together of bits and had to be withdrawn though it was it was the star of the auction. (which proves if you are buying a high buck car you need to bring someone with you to authenticate the car you are bidding on).

    The most embarrassing one was the guy who faked an Aston Martin race car and presented it around, even winning an award at Pebble Beach, only to have the family of the man killed it in step forward and say something to the effect of “we buried that car with our son in it and it’s still there.”

    Another worry is Jaguar’s time machine where they go back and make some more D-types, go back again and make some lightweight E-types, pretty soon Mercedes will think of making more 300SL gullwings, Porsche will think of reviving the Speedster Carreras and auction companies will be hard put to tell real ones from fakes. You might say SN are the key and they are but even they can fail you. I cite the case in one of my books I tell about a photographer not allowed into the gullwing group because his SN was wrong but only after he sold it for peanuts did he find out his was a ’52 gullwing predating the production cars (now restored and worth $10 million) that had been rebodied with a production body….and he didn’t even know it had won LeMans.

  9. TO: Mike and Wallace Wyss,

    Mike – I deleted your last comment because it was insulting and added nothing to the discussion.

    Wallace shares his background because it can help others decide how much they can depend on his opinions, or not. He has been making his living writing about cars for many decades and is well known in the car world and has met many of the people involved with the subject.

    You put yourself in the category of “Those of us who know GT40 history…” – yet the readers do not know who you are because you have chosen to comment anonymously so we have no basis to determine your credibility or your authority on the subject.

    Wallace – your comment “…someone who was in diapers back in 1965…” was not necessary.

    • wallace wyss says:

      OK Mike, I admit to playing the Old Man’s card with that diaper remark. I often go with my employer, a horse breeder 92 year old for coffee in a nearby village and whenever we are talking about WWII with somebody we met there he can throw in “well, when I was in the South Pacific ” and people respect his first hand knowledge. That’s why I don’t write about WWII, I wasn’t there, though later by chance I interviewed a couple of the principle players–Von Braun and Gen. Doolittle. I still wouldn’t presume to write about it, though. It’s great that people bring up obscure books, I am afraid a lot of car books only got printed once, and are unavailable. Fortunately there are out of print book dealers like Logan Gray if you are building a library on a particular car.

  10. Mike Clarke says:

    Just so everyone understands I only made one comment about the VIN “All you need for a whole new car is the VIN number.” The other posts from “Mike” were made by someone else, not me! My posts are listed as Mike Clarke. The way the website software lists the comments one could think these were posts from me. I have no dog in this fight.

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